Police have grounded a flight operated by one of Europe’s cheapest budget carriers after the flight crew and cabin crew failed alcohol tests.
Low-cost carrier airBaltic, national flag carrier of Latvia, was about to fly 109 people from Norway to Crete when permission to take-off was denied because the captain, first officer (co-pilot) and two flight attendants were tested and all found to be over the limit.
Police turned out at Norway’s Oslo Airport after receiving a tip-off that the crew were “particularly merry”, Britain’s Daily Mirror reported.
Police intercepted four jolly crewmembers and breathalysed them. All failed.
Reports that the whole crew had failed the alcohol test were exaggerated, an airBaltic spokesman was quick to point out. There were five crewmembers and one of them passed.
The four others registered blood alcohol levels beyond 0.2%, “making it dangerous for them to be in charge of the plane”, the paper reported. Instead of flying holidaymakers to Greece, the crew were led into a waiting police car.
Passengers were initially told the pilot was “unwell”. They faced a long delay as their luggage had already been loaded on the plane.
The exact level of intoxication was not revealed.
airBaltic spokesman Janis Vanags told the Public Broadcasting Service of Latvia the company operated a “zero tolerance” policy on alcohol.
“Zero tolerance means no alcohol,’ Vanags said. “It’s very straightforward – safety is our number one priority.”
“There has been an initial test and that is being followed up with more detailed tests. When we have the results we will take appropriate action. I apologise to all customers who have been affected by this incident.”
The company expressed regret for the nearly five-hour delay. It reiterated that the crew had consisted of five members, one of whom had passed the alcohol test. The problem is that the other four, including both pilots, didn’t.
airBaltic is headquartered in Riga, the Latvian capital. Known for cheap flights around Scandinavia and the Baltic states, it had a fleet of 24 aircraft at last report.
Written by Peter Needham